2019 fifa club world cup

Al Sadd eye semis, fans eager to watch world stars 

Doha, Qatar: The Club World Cup gives Qatar another chance to test their organisational capabilities ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, but it is as important for the host representative Al Sadd and their coach Xavi Hernandez.

For former Barcelona midfield maestro Xavi, whose playing career was all about exquisite passing, immaculate reading of the game and winning World Cup, European Championships and Champions League titles, the Club World Cup offers a chance to showcase his coaching abilities at a world stage and probably a chance to match his wits with Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp, one of the best tacticians around at the moment.

Bet before think about meeting Liverpool, Al Sadd must tackle other obstacles and New Caledonia's Hienghene Sport, the winners of OFC Champions League stand right in front of them.

The two meet in the opening match of the tournament at Al Sadd Stadium on Wednesday and Xavi said it was going to be a tough match.

"We’ve looked at Hienghene and we understand that we’re the favourites, although you still have to go out and do it on the pitch. It is going to be a tough match," said Xavi.

"Our aim is for the players not to feel the added pressure that comes with being the home team and wanting to perform. If the players are nervous they can't express themselves freely on the pitch. My job is to help them with my experience and make them play without fear and express themselves freely. There are some quality players in my team," he added.

Sadd, who finished third in 2011, have not had the best of preparations as the most of the players were with the Qatar national team playing in the Gulf Cup, but Xavi said they were ready.

"It's true we did not have too much time to prepare because of the busy calendar. But it's not an excuse and psychologically we are in a good moment. The team is ready, said Xavi.

The former Sadd captain said they were aiming for the semifinals, where they could be pitted against Liverpool, but he knows it's going to be difficult.

"Our goal is to reach the semifinals, but we must respect all the teams. It's going to be tough against Hienghene, and if we win it we will play Monterrey in the quarterfinals. Mexicans are always a tough team to play against. They are fighters, warriors and they play with a lot of passion."

Meanwhile, Hienghene will look to make the most of their opportunity in the FIFA tournament. They were the first to reach Doha and have had plenty of time to prepare.

They might not have the kind of players and coach Sadd have but they are ready for a fight.

"We have nothing to lose and we are prepared, said Hienghene coach Felix Tagawa at the pre-match press conference. We will do our best against Al Sadd.

They have good defenders and midfielders and a top striker in Baghdad Bounedjah but we have done well to qualify for this tournament and we want to give our all.

Asian champions Al Hilal will take on African winners Espérance Sportive de Tunis on Thursday, with the winners taking on Brazilian side Flamengo in the semifinals.

Flamengo qualified after beating River Plate in the Copa Libertadores final. They are one of the favourites for the title, along with Liverpool whose big stars including Mohamed Salah, will be the biggest attraction for the fans.

Klopp's European champions are runaway leaders in the Premier League, although their European form has been a little sketchy.

Klopp's prime concern will be the winning the Champions League match against Red Bull Salzburg on Tuesday and ensure qualification. And if they can reproduce their Premier League form in Doha, they will be too tough to beat.

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